Her life in words

Bar­bara Bar­rett writes a gift for her fam­ily

The Southern Gazette - - EDITORIAL - BY BAR­BARA DEAN-SIM­MONS

It’s a story that’s been on my mind since this spring.

I had paid a visit to Bar­bara Bar­rett and her hus­band, Frank, nearly a year ago.

The story then was how she had fought against the sys­tem, which had deemed that Frank needed to be placed in longterm care.

She per­se­vered to have him come back home to live with her and, with the aid of two home-care work­ers, he is still able to live with his wife in their neat lit­tle bun­ga­low on Har­bour Buf­fett Road in Arnold’s Cove.

While do­ing that story, I stum­bled on an­other one.

Bar­bara had a book, a very spe­cial, one- of- a- kind book. I flipped through the pages, and knew in­stantly I needed to spend more time with it.

I promised Bar­bara I would come back for an­other visit, to tell that other story.

Last week I man­aged the time to do just that; to spend an af­ter­noon with Bar­bara and her book.

From the out­side, it’s a fairly plain book — a black, le­gal-sized hard­cover, con­tain­ing 200 pages.

Be­sides the fact there is only one copy of this book any­where in the world — and the only place you will find it is at Bar­bara’s house — the thing that makes it truly unique is what is in­side.

On each of the ruled pages, in neat, cur­sive, hand­writ­ing — with not a sin­gle scratche­d­out word on any one of those pages — is the life story of Bar­bara Bar­rett.

She be­gan this project in 2013; de­ter­mined to com­mit her vivid mem­o­ries to pa­per.

“It’s a good time in life, hav­ing time to look back at the past,” says the re­tired school­teacher.

Her aim was to have a record for her fam­ily — chil­dren, grand­chil­dren and those who are still to come — show­ing them what it was like to live in O’Dearin, a small com­mu­nity on an is­land in Placentia Bay, long be­fore the trap­pings of mod­ern-day life.

The sto­ries are fac­tual, and per­sonal.

Some are heart­warm­ing, some are heart­break­ing.

Such is the way of life — sor­row mixed with joy, hap­pi­ness in­ter­rupted by sad­ness.

She writes of her fa­ther, a fish­er­man, who also built schooners.

Her sto­ries tell of long-ago Christ­mas pageants, of Christ­mas din­ners built not from a trip to the gro­cery story, but of what was at hand: their own pork, wild ducks and turr, and veg­eta­bles from their own gar­dens.

Bar­bara writes of fam­ily— like the birth of her baby brother and the mem­o­ries of the small shop her mother ran next to their home.

She tells her own tale — her move from O’Dearin when she was just 15, to at­tend sum­mer school to train for teach­ing, and her first post­ing in Tack’s Beach. She was just 16.

She writes of love and ro­mance, re­count­ing her first meet­ing with Frank Bar­rett, her in­de­ci­sion on com­mit­ting to mar­riage and their even­tual wed­ding day five years later.

She writes, with hon­esty and emo­tion, about the death of her six-year-old daugh­ter, Linda, in a tragic car ac­ci­dent.

She tells of the heart­break she and Frank en­dured, re­turn­ing to their empty home, their bod­ies still heal­ing from the ac­ci­dent, their emo­tions raw from their loss.

Con­tin­ued on Page B3

BAR­BARA DEAN-SIM­MONS/TC ME­DIA PHOTO

Bar­bara Bar­rett at her home in Arnold’s Cove, with the book of her life sto­ries.

This ex­cerpt from her book shows Bar­bara’s neat, cur­sive, hand­writ­ing, and the de­tail in the sto­ries from her life. This is a pas­sage from her story ti­tled “Love and Ro­mance” and tells of the day she met Frank Bar­rett, the man who would be her hus­band.

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